Retrospective Exhibition Showcases Artist’s Career and 90 Works of Art
By Sarah McPherson
There’s a new exhibition at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, but the artworks themselves are old friends of the space. Shelley Niro’s Chiquita, Bunny, Stella is exhibited in the front foyer in a show titled Bamaapi: See You Later. The work will be leaving the gallery this month after years in storage and heading to New York to take its place in the multidisciplinary artist’s international retrospective exhibition, Shelley Niro: 500 Year Itch. But it’s not “goodbye” for the work, but rather “bamaapi,” which means “see you later” in Anishinaabemowin—fitting, as the pieces will return to the gallery’s collection in 2026.
Chiquita, Bunny, Stella is a multimedia project created by Niro in 1995, with the intent to highlight the skills of significant women in Niro’s life. Niro’s mother, sister, and daughter are all pictured working on their respective crafts: Chiquita’s image is paired with a dancing fan, Bunny’s with a cornhusk doll, and Stella’s with a beaded bag. In the exhibition, curators Meaghan Eley and Caitlyn Bird also included quotations about each person, pulled from Niro’s original statement about the work. “We all know people like [these women]—not them, exactly, but they exist in our families and communities,” Bird says. “There’s an importance, a need for these pieces to be shared with the community.”
The work specifically highlights the individuals as they relate to their creations, and the importance of recognizing the role of the artist in a craft. In her statement from 1995, Niro says: “Although the work these women do is based on cultural elements from Iroquois society, their work is an expression of themselves and is contained within themselves. With these pieces, I wanted to highlight the person who spends a great deal of time making objects.” When asked about her reflection on the work for this exhibition, Niro says: “I love the work because it has my family members in it. Whenever I see it, it feels like I’m visiting an old friend.” Two of the individuals pictured have passed on since Niro created the work in 1995.
Bamaapi: See You Later is a powerful honouring of not only a truly impactful artist, but also of the creative women in her life and their influence. The exhibition runs until December 31.
For more information, visit theag.ca.